Post-wildfire mapping and assessment of Maui’s leeward reefs, Sept. 14
As the community begins the recovery process after the devastating Lahaina and Upcountry wildfires, groups like the Maui Nui Marine Resource Council, are turning to the ocean to gather baseline conditions of coral reefs before impacts like fire-related runoff occur.
“The areas burned by the wildfires have been stripped of cover and soils and toxins are poised to wash downstream into our coastal waters and groundwater,” organization leaders said. “The effect on coral reefs, long-term water quality, and resources, such as food fish, will be is uncertain.”
Maui Nui Marine Resource Council invites the public to a FREE presentation on Thursday, Sept. 14 at 6 p.m. at Maui Ocean Center’s Dome Theater. The group will share information about the effort to rapidly map the current, baseline conditions of coral reefs along leeward Maui where the impacts of fire-related runoff could occur with future rain or storm events.
Dr. Brett Kettle of Flying Fish Technologies leads a team who has been mapping Maui’s reefs over the past week. He has pioneered coral reef protection for over three decades, both on the Great Barrier Reef and internationally.
Dr. Kettle has developed the Vertigo3 glider, a towed ROV that can survey 25 acres an hour while recording over 50,000 high-resolution images. This large-scale documentation of Maui’s reefs, along with AI and ML-driven processing technologies, opens up a remarkable set of opportunities to view and study Maui’s reefs in ways that were impossible until now.
What’s in the water?
Help MNMRC document the effects of Maui’s wildfires on the ocean
“During these surveys, we’ve come across slicks of what turned out to be blue-green alga, also known as cyanobacteria. These are known from around Maui’s waters but the abundance this year appears unusual. We were contacted by a Kāʻanapali resident who recorded a dense slick washing up on the beach there over the weekend,” according to leaders with the Maui Nui Marine Resource Council.
“These algae are not thought to be directly harmful, though large blooms like this can cause oxygen depletion as they die and rot,” according to the MNMRC. Organization leaders ask the public that if these slicks are observed on the water or washing up onshore, to consider sharing the time, location, and, if possible an image or video of the event to [email protected].
Other fire-related remnants, such as ash, or charcoal showing up on the beach or in patches in the water can prove helpful as the MNMRC tries to understand where material washed from shore is likely to drift and affect in the future.